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by Kimberley Hackett
17 September 2015

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Blog: All for one and one for all

“My uncle is a retired surgeon in the US where seven-day working is the culture. But there are a high number of wrecked marriages due to this. So I suggest we should resist a seven-day NHS,” said one delegate during the opening panel’s Q&A session at the Management in Practice (MIP) conference held in Birmingham on 15 September.

Given the strength of feeling around the plans for a seven-day NHS it was an obvious choice as the topic for the opening panel’s discussion.

Tower Hamlet’s star Virginia Patania, practice manager and managing partner at Jubilee Street, and panelist, outlined two ways she believes the seven-day NHS in primary care can work.

“Firstly it’s making sure that those working five days a week aren’t expected to extend their working week to seven-days. The other is to look at who else in the healthcare system can treat patients. Up to 45% of patients that GPs treat could be addressed by other skill mixes. This offers greater career opportunities, for example receptionists can become healthcare assistance,” she says.

There followed a heated but well-rounded debate where those for and against the measure voiced their views.

One audience member who hailed form a retail background had only been in the NHS primary care setting for 13 weeks and questioned whether it was possible to meet the extended hours that Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, has demanded. And believed that Hunt should lead the systematic shift to make the change.

Optimism from the panel eased the tension surrounding the future of primary care.

Sally Simmonds, former practice manager and programme lead, Primary Care Commissioning, took the opportunity to highlight the chance for change and for practice to join forces.

Although some delegates held the view that the government’s move was based on pushing to privatise the NHS, Simmonds painted a picture of how general practice could be in the future.

“This is about you protecting your own business and not allowing other [private providers] coming in. Collectively you will be stronger by working with other practices rather than standing alone. It’s all for one and one for all!”

And as Andrew McHugh, chair of MIP Birmingham and practice manager at Horsefair Surgery in Banbury, Oxon, pointed out: “Seven-day NHS in primary care is going to happen.”

This concept of working together echoed throughout the day in all the lectures. With hubs and federations taking shape across the country it became apparent that this is one way to move forward to create and provide care in today’s NHS climate.

The change in the way primary care is now working means that online systems and shared data bases are now taking shape.

IT was not overlooked at MIP Birmingham, in fact, not only was it described as a good way to engage with patients but also a way to aid in finding more GPs to accommodate extra hours needed for seven-day working.

With concerns around the seven-day NHS apparent the speakers led the way in seeking change. Talking to other general practices in your area is a starting point; idea sharing, looking at where it is done well were all recommended starting points.

It’s not about copying other models as Dr Peter Patel, partner and development director at Grange Hill Surgery, Birmingham, and support lead at Birmingham South Central CCG, said, “it’s about finding what works for you and creating it”.